What is a social media plan?

Nearly every business has a social media presence. But succeeding on social networks takes more than just posting daily updates. Do you know what your goals are and who you are trying to reach? Do you understand the type of content that your audience truly cares about and why they would want to engage with you? Answering those questions and moving beyond ad hoc social presence requires a strategic plan.

A social media plan outlines what you want to achieve on social media and how it supports your overall marketing strategy. It helps you determine your target audience, the social networks to join, and the type of content to develop and share. Once you have a plan outlined, you can get to work refining your content and cadence, analyzing follower engagement, and building deeper relationships with your audience.

How do I create a social media plan?

Most marketing teams build and refine social media plans a few times per year. This likely happens alongside other team-level and company-level planning. You might also build separate social plans for special launches or campaigns — these would also support the broader social media strategy. Follow these steps to build a plan that drives real results:

Define social goals and KPIs

The first step to an effective social media plan is reviewing your broader marketing goals and initiatives. Your social goals should ladder back to top-level marketing goals — these objectives inform your social strategy.

Social media goals typically fit into the following categories:

  • Increase share of voice

  • Gain new followers

  • Drive traffic to your website

  • Generate new leads or trial sign-ups

  • Boost community engagement and loyalty

  • Triage customer support requests

Depending on the size of your team, you may want to pursue more or fewer goals. For example, if you do not have a team member from customer support available to monitor social media, you may not want to provide in-depth customer support on social networks. Instead, direct support requests to email or a help desk.

Next, you are ready to align social goals with relevant KPIs. If your goal is to drive website traffic, for instance, meaningful KPIs would include click-through rates on social content and referral traffic from specific sites. Many teams make the mistake of tracking every metric available on social networks (e.g., followers, influence scores, post reach, shares, and likes). Lots of data can be useful but it is often simpler and more effective to trim KPIs to those that directly correspond with intended objectives.

Know your audience and competitors

Revisit your existing buyer personas to gain a better understanding of who you should be targeting and what kind of content will boost engagement. This may require a bit of guesswork, but you can also use social media analysis tools to identify key demographics, track interests, and gain insights about a competitor's audience.

Then, look at how your competitors use social media — evaluate the networks they use, the type of content they share, and how often they post. It is up to you to decide if you want to have a social presence on the same networks as competitors or if you would prefer to target channels that are more relevant to your goals.

Choose social networks

Each social network fulfills its own niche. You do not need to have a presence on all of them. Prioritize the networks where your audience spends the most time and where your brand can be most useful. For example, if you do not develop video content, there is no sense in creating a YouTube or Vimeo channel. (This might seem obvious, but plenty of marketing teams feel pressure to be everywhere just because you can.)

Consider smaller platforms that might be uniquely relevant to your audience and market. Sites such as Houzz, Goodreads, or Behance give you a chance to build relationships with folks who have specific skills and interests.

Review past performance

Many teams use the start of a new year or quarter to audit marketing programs. If you are revising an existing social media plan, you need to review what you have tried before. Seek answers to the following:

  • Which networks should we continue to invest in? Which, if any, should we leave?

  • What type of content performs best — by reach, clicks, shares, or other KPIs?

  • How much time and resources have we been investing in social? Do the returns justify the investment?

  • What should we keep or stop doing?

Create a playbook

A social media playbook is the culmination of your strategic plan as well as smaller details that guide your daily posts — such as content themes, audience segmentation, and posting frequency. A playbook typically contains the following components:

Target audience, including any segmented lists (e.g., by age, industry, location, job role, etc.)

There are different reasons you might segment your audience. For example, you can create lists to monitor various conversations or for ad targeting purposes.

Channels

Social platforms on which you have a presence, including any channel-specific goals

Tone and style

Your brand's social media voice or personality

Typically, you will define one brand voice for all marketing content with different tones or styles on social media. For example, some brands are more playful on Twitter and more professional on LinkedIn.

Core messages

Primary messages that will help convey your brand's value

These will likely match or support core messages within your content marketing plan.

Content themes

Main themes and conversations you want to engage in on social channels

Posting mix

Types of posts you will create (e.g., text, links, images, videos, and reshares)

The posting mix depends on a number of factors — such as audience interests and internal resources.

Posting frequency

How often you plan to post and at what times of day

The optimal frequency and timing depends on how your audience responds to your posts. Dig into engagement metrics and industry research to determine the best cadence.

Guidelines

Policies and processes to guide social media use — such as how to respond to a disgruntled customer

How do I implement the social media plan?

You have defined the "why," "what," and "when" of your social media plan. Now let's briefly look at the "how" — all of the activities involved in creating, scheduling, and measuring your posts. There are three main areas to consider:

Identify the right tools

Social media management tools give you the ability to publish posts, monitor performance, and manage social ads. Some of these tools can be integrated with other marketing platforms that you use. Others are stand-alone.

A roadmapping tool like Aha! has purpose-built workspaces for marketing teams so you can set strategy, build marketing calendars, and share plans across teams. Teams generally use Aha! for building broader marketing plans and they use a purpose-built tool for publishing content and monitoring social media.

Build workflows

Well-defined workflows harness your team's focus and momentum. You may want to develop workflows for the following areas of focus:

  • Research (e.g., audience, competitors, content topics, hashtags)

  • Community management (e.g., listening, monitoring, and responding to mentions)

  • Content and creative (e.g., developing campaigns, writing posts, designing images and ads)

  • Approvals and outbound scheduling

  • Measurement and analysis

Identify any workflows that you can automate — this will save time and even boost engagement. For instance, if your audience clicks on content shared at 5 a.m., it is far simpler to schedule automated posts at that time rather than designate an early bird on your team who has to set their alarm every day.

Define roles and responsibilities

Sophisticated social media management requires a dedicated team. For every workflow, map out roles and responsibilities so everyone understands what is expected. You will likely need to identify folks across the organization who can help in a pinch. For example, you may want to choose teammates on the support or IT team who can help if technical questions from customers come through social channels.

Showcase the value of social media

Finally, make a real effort to track and share results. Most of the major social media networks provide detailed engagement reports — pay attention to the metrics you identified when goal-setting. Set benchmarks and monitor your progress regularly. And use what you learn to recalibrate audience segments, content themes, and posting frequency.

The details may change but your overall strategy should remain constant. With a great plan in place, you will gain the confidence that comes with driving business results.


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